This small planet is the closest to the Sun. It is a planet of extremes, with an incredibly cold night and an unbearably hot day, yet its surface temperatures are still beaten by those of Venus. Due to some anomalies in its orbit, some theorized that there was an even smaller planet even closer to the Sun named Vulcan, but it turns out that it was just general relativity being a pest as usual.

The Romans named this planet after their messenger god. Many other ancient cultures who observed this planet gave it similar names, because it appears to move quite fast in the sky relative to the other planets. The Assyrians called it the "jumping planet", the Babylonians called it Nabu, the Greeks called it Hermaon or Stilbon, the Germans called it Odin, the Maya iconified it as an owl, and some East Asian cultures call it the "water star".

The classical symbol of this planet is supposed to be a representation of a caduceus, with two snakes intertwining each other over a cross evocative of the shape of Venus. In effect, the top part is a circle surmounted by a half-circle. This is also the alchemical for the element mercury. It is represented in Unicode as U+263F, by the symbol ☿.

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